On a recent vacation we stopped in Denver for a short stay. Unfortunately, we didn’t have long to sample the area’s many fine restaurants, but we did come across one — Freshcraft — that met our needs of a family friendly, non-chain spot in the LoDo (Lower Downtown) area. According to the restaurant’s website, the place was established by three brothers (Lucas, Jason, and Aaron Forgy) from Iowa. Gastropubs are all the rage around the country as people want good, inventive, fresh food at reasonable prices and Freshcraft does a solid job of delivering.

It’s a casual place with many craft beers on tap and plenty more in bottles. The atmosphere is what you would expect from a local hangout specializing in brews and comfort food/bar food. It’s loud. It can get rowdy. If it’s early enough in the night, it’s great to bring the family because any shrieking sounds your offspring will make will be drowned out by adults. The booths are comfy and the service was efficient, friendly, and informative.

Their menu is broken up by portion size — snacks, small plates, medium plates, large plates. Although  many of the dishes we tried were plenty big. Surprisingly, they had a few options for vegetarians and some options that will attract the health conscious crowd. I didn’t go that route.

I reached my cheese quota for the month during this one meal. We started with the pretzel bites ($5) — they’re tiny pretzel pieces of handmade, deliciously chewy and perfectly salted pretzel in a large ramekin that are baked. The cheese sauce for dipping was on the plate.

My wife liked her antioxidant salad ($4, spinach, arugula, toasted almond, julienne red onion, dried cranberry, poached cranberries, carrots, croutons, tossed with a strawberry pomegranate vinaigrette). It looked great but I didn’t try it. Instead, I went with the ale and cheese soup ($4). It was a small cup filled with a creamy mix of cheeses and topped with pretzel bites and bacon.

We washed that down with the herb crusted cheese dippers ($6.50). They were lightly dredged in ale batter, crusted in herbed crumbs, and fried to make some of the best cheese sticks around. The dish came with pesto and a house-made smoked onion ketchup dipping sauces.

We split an entree, their special of the day, a house-ground lamb and pork burger with jerk seasoning, topped with fried plantain chips. It was dense and tightly packed and had a bit of a kick from the seasoning. The bun was perfectly soft and chewy. We ordered it with a side of their spudpuppies — fried mashed potato balls.

The place doesn’t have a kid’s menu, but there are items that little ones might eat. We ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and fries for our guy. The staff was nice enough to make it plain — cheddar cheese on wheat — instead of their typical version with provolone, cashew pesto, and tomatoes.

The beer list is pretty good. It seemed to focus on regional brews and they were all reasonably priced.

The food definitely wasn’t healthy, but it was tasty. The kind that will stick to your ribs (or gut) for days. Comfort food with a twist.

4 Stars

1530 Blake St
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 758-9608

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